Theme: Sustainable Design

Sisters Natalie and Kim Ellis are as passionate about design, as they are about the environment. Which is why they pioneered a felt fabric that is not only beautiful and luxurious to the touch but, more importantly, is made from recycled plastic bottles. ‘Future Felt’, as they dubbed it, became the foundation of their sustainable and ethical product design brand, The Joinery, which produces stylish, eco-friendly products such as totes and weekender bags, passport covers, hotel slippers, laptop covers, laundry baskets and more. “To date we have kept half-a-million plastic bottles out of landfill, and our goal is to reach one-million,” says Natalie. The sisters worked with local fibre recyclers to conceptualise Future Felt, which is made by extruding used plastic bottles into pellets, and transforming these into fibre. “The process has a significantly lower impact on our environment than virgin fibre, uses less energy and water and is entirely local,” explains Kim. For the sisters, plastic pollution is only half the problem, and they are passionate about job creation, too. “All our products are made by local artisans and sewing co-operatives based in and around informal settlements in Cape Town,” says Natalie. “Working with women who support entire families is why we do what we do,” she adds. The beauty of the arrangement, according to Kim, is that the seamstresses can work from or close to home, which not only helps to reduce their commuting costs, but also means they are there for their children when needed. The Joinery uses a mix of traditional African techniques and high-quality contemporary design to create their luxury products, which have found an almost cult following among corporates, and the luxury travel industry, as well as with retail clients, both locally and abroad. For the sisters, whose client list boasts names such as Coca-Cola, Investec, Spier and Sabi Sabi, one of the biggest surprises since starting The Joinery, has been the response from corporates. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that we’d get phone calls from big company CEOs wanting our advice on ways to improve their corporate sustainable and ethical status,” says Natalie. “We have always believed you cannot and should not produce beautiful products without considering who makes them and what they are made of,” adds Kim. Hence the name of the brand, The Joinery, which refers to their founding principles of collaborating and ‘joining’ up with artisans, designers and brands to create environmentally friendly designs. “We want to ensure that people understand the importance of recycling, and the importance of purchasing products that make a difference to our people and our planet,” explains Kim.

100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.